With Wednesday's long-awaited announcement the United States will reopen the land border next month, Simon Resch won't have to walk too far to pop open some champagne.

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With Wednesday's long-awaited announcement the United States will reopen the land border next month, Simon Resch won't have to walk too far to pop open some champagne.

Resch, the second-generation owner of the Emerson Duty Free shop, located just a few steps north of the border, said he's pleased that soon Canadian travellers will be driving past his business again, many stopping to buy discounted liquor or perfume to take with them on their drive south.

"Man, for 19 months I have been waiting for this announcement," an ecstatic Resch said. "It's elation for us down by the border."

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p>
Resch, the second-generation owner of the Emerson Duty Free shop, located just a few steps north of the border, said he's pleased that soon Canadian travellers will be driving past his business again.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Resch, the second-generation owner of the Emerson Duty Free shop, located just a few steps north of the border, said he's pleased that soon Canadian travellers will be driving past his business again.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration announced it will begin allowing fully vaccinated travellers from Canada and Mexico to cross its border for non-essential purposes at both land and ferry ports of entry starting sometime in November.

It means that Manitobans will, for the first time since March 2020, be able to drive to Grand Forks or Fargo for a weekend getaway, and snowbirds can take their own vehicles south to escape the winter cold.

Resch said gross sales at his business have plunged 85 per cent — more than $10 million — during the border shutdown.

Not a return to 'normal'

What to expect at the border.

Before Manitobans make November hotel reservations in Grand Forks or Fargo, there are some things to know.

That's because travel across the border will not be like it was before the pandemic hit in March 2020.

What to expect at the border.

Before Manitobans make November hotel reservations in Grand Forks or Fargo, there are some things to know.

That's because travel across the border will not be like it was before the pandemic hit in March 2020.

Manitobans will be required to show proof of full vaccination before U.S. officers will allow them to drive across the border, which will remain closed to unvaccinated travellers.

Canadians flying to the United States will need to show both proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test to enter the country.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still in the process of determining whether foreigners who've had two different vaccine doses will be considered fully vaccinated. The New York Times quoted a senior official Wednesday who said people who have received vaccines listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, including AstraZeneca's, will likely be allowed to cross the land border.

And there are rules for Canadians returning home.

A spokesperson for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada said all returning travellers — including those who are fully vaccinated — have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test result or show proof of a positive COVID-19 molecular test result taken 14 to 180 days before their departure.

Those tests cost about $250 per person at various clinics in Winnipeg.

"The Government of Canada is monitoring the situation within the dynamic context of the pandemic," said the spokesperson.

"Measures will evolve based on the data, science and Canadian and global epidemiological situations."

— Kevin Rollason

"For a small family business, to be missing $10 million is pretty big," he said.

"It has just been commercial drivers or the few essential-service drivers coming in. I have to say, not only have these groups endured so much, to bring in goods to keep our economy going, but without these drivers coming in during the pandemic we would really not be here. We owe a debt of gratitude to them."

The announcement was welcomed across the line, as well, making the general manager of Happy Harry's Bottle Stores... uh, very happy.

"There's no doubt about it, we miss our friends from the north," said Greg Rixen. "This is a great step forward. You can see it on a weekend; we miss our Canadian visitors."

"There's no doubt about it, we miss our friends from the north." – Greg Rixen, general manager of Happy Harry's Bottle Stores

Barry Wilfhart, president of the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce, said he's looking forward to seeing Manitoba vehicles outnumber those bearing North Dakota licence plates in retail parking lots and at hotels.

"We've seen a definite decrease in business," Wilfhart said. "Particularly our hotels have missed our Canadian traffic, followed by restaurants and big-box stores."

Wilfhart said the Chamber's numbers show hotel business in Grand Forks has dropped between 25 to 40 per cent and restaurants have lost as much as 25 per cent.

"The closer to I-29 the more impacted they are," he said, referring to the Interstate Highway that runs from the border directly through Grand Forks.

"I think people are ready to roll out the red carpet. A big chunk of our retail and hospitality economy is built on that Canadian customer base coming for decades."

Jennifer Puckett, general manager of the AmericInn hotel in Grand Forks, said concerts and sports events have drawn some business, but nothing close to the steady stream of Canadian visitors before the pandemic.

"I'm ready for everything to be back to normal," she said.

MIKAELA MCKENZIE/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES </p>
U.S. President Joe Biden's administration announced it will begin allowing fully vaccinated travellers from Canada and Mexico to cross its border for non-essential purposes at both land and ferry ports of entry starting sometime in November.

MIKAELA MCKENZIE/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration announced it will begin allowing fully vaccinated travellers from Canada and Mexico to cross its border for non-essential purposes at both land and ferry ports of entry starting sometime in November.

Terry Nord, owner of Pembina Parcel, was pleased with Wednesday's news.

"Canadians can't get here (so) there's not much counter service," said Nord, whose business provides a U.S. address for online purchases from retailers who don't ship to Canada.

Nord said he's got parcels jam-packed inside his aircraft-hangar warehouse waiting for Canadian pickups.

"This is very good news," he said.

But Resch momentarily tempered his enthusiasm as he began preparations for more traffic.

"Canadians still need to have a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours to come back to Canada," he said. "We're very hopeful Canada will remove the requiring of a PCR test and either move to a rapid test or no tests.

"Without that, it will put a damper on the border reopening."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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